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OBITUARIES : Skip Caray, 1939 - 2008

Longtime voice of the Atlanta Braves

August 05, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Skip Caray, the wry and often humorous longtime voice of Atlanta Braves baseball who developed a nationwide following broadcasting games on TBS, died Sunday at his home outside Atlanta. He was 68.

Caray, the son of legendary broadcaster Harry Caray and father of current Braves' and TBS broadcaster Chip Caray, had been in failing health for years. He had heart disease and diabetes as well as reduced kidney and liver function.

He was unable to work for several weeks at the end of last season and had called only home games this year.

Thursday was his last time behind the mic as he called Atlanta's 9-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals with Pete Van Wieren, his longtime partner.

Caray often used humor to wrap his critical commentary, Van Wieren said.

He "had a commitment to telling it like he believed it to be that never, ever varied," Van Wieren told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "He was just a very entertaining broadcaster, and a very good one."

Caray's son Chip was broadcasting Sunday's Angels-Yankees game in New York for TBS when he learned that his father had died.

"I'm just in shock," Chip Caray told MLB.com. "I knew he wasn't feeling good, but this was unexpected. He hung the moon for me."

Harry Christopher "Skip" Caray Jr. was born in St. Louis on Aug. 12, 1939. His parents divorced when he was young, and as a boy he listened to his father announce St. Louis Cardinals games. Around 8:30 each night, Harry would tuck his son into bed by saying over the air, "Good night, Skippy."

The on-air acknowledgment was "one thing I'll never forgive him for," Caray once said, because he got teased for it throughout his school years. He recalled his days as an all-city linebacker at a suburban St. Louis high school.

"Some guy across the line from me would say, 'Good night, Skippy.' I'd get mad. Then the guy would knock me down and run right over me."

Caray took to broadcasting after a season-ending knee injury. While still in high school, he hosted a 15-minute prep sports show on St. Louis radio. He studied radio and television at the University of Missouri and earned a degree in journalism. He later broadcast University of Missouri football games with his father.

His baseball broadcasting career began in the 1960s with the minor league Tulsa Oilers and the Atlanta Crackers. In 1967, he returned to St. Louis and joined the broadcast team for the NBA Hawks and moved with them to Atlanta the next season.

He became an announcer for the Braves in 1976 and worked for both teams until 1983, when he decided to concentrate on baseball.

The Hawks and Braves had terrible records in Caray's early years with the teams, although the Braves became a powerhouse in the early 1990s. Caray was often criticized as a "homer" by those who thought he was biased in favor of the home team, but his broadcasts were generally interesting.

In one widely reported instance when the Hawks were losing badly, Caray told viewers it was OK to stop watching the carnage as along as they patronized the station's sponsors.

More recently with the Braves, Caray had fun with relief pitcher Jung Bong's name, noting that every time the opposing team got a hit off him, "That's another hit off of Bong."

Caray also was known for his curt and often sarcastic responses to fairly ordinary questions.

In 2004, Caray and Van Wieren were inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame.

In addition to his son Chip, Caray is survived by another son, Josh, a broadcaster for the Braves' Class A team in Rome, Ga.; his second wife, Paula; and two other children, Cindy and Shayelyn.

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